Social Security Disability Benefits for Children

The information provided here is for parents, caregivers or representatives of a child or children younger than age 18 who have disabilities that might make the child eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. This information is also provided for adults who became disabled in childhood and who might be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The SSA calls this SSDI benefit a “child’s” benefit since it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. This information should help you decide if your child, or a child you know, might be eligible for SSI or SSDI.

At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, and Affiliates, we have assisted hundreds, if not thousands, of children and people with disabilities receive benefits through SSI and SSDI. Since these are very time sensitive and complicated matters and, making it even more frustrating, it can take months to process an application, and, if denied, which many first applications are denied, then more months to go through the appeals process, it is imperative that you Contact Us for your free legal consultation as soon as you suspect that you or a loved one is disabled so that we may begin to assist you in a timely manner. We are able to assist you whether you are filing for the first time, or are anywhere in the appeals process. We are here to help and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Children can be born with disabilities or become disabled later in their childhood for a number of reasons. For whatever the reason and whenever the child has become disabled, someone who has the authority to do so must file for Social Security Disability Benefits for the Child much the same as you would file for Social Security Disability Benefits for yourself as an Adult.

There is one main difference, however, and that is that children from birth up to age 18 to be eligible for Supplemental Social Security (SSI) benefits, must be disabled AND they must have little or no income or resources, and the resources available to the child through the family’s household income, resources and other personal information are considered by the SSA in making the determination whether or not the child will or will not receive Social Security Disability Benefits. Therefore, even if a child is disabled by the strict definition of disability as set forth by the SSA, if there is enough income and resources available to the child through the family or otherwise, then the child will be denied for SSI benefits. The following information is provided in a Question and Answer format so that you may readily find the information that applies to your situation.

How Do I Apply for a Child, who is under 18, for Disability Benefits? The first step that one must take is to apply and file for disability. The Steps to Apply are as follows: 1.) Review the Child Disability Starter Kit. This kit contains valuable information that will be discussed in more detail herein; 2. ) Contact Social Security right away to find out whether the income and resources of the family’s household income, resources, and other relevant information is discussed to determine whether the child and the family are within the allowed limits, and, if so, then to start the SSI application process: and 3.) Fill Out the Online Child Disability Report.

At the end of the report, the SSA will ask you to sign a form that gives the child's doctor(s) permission to give the SSA information about his/her disability as the SSA needs this information so that they can make a decision regarding the child’s claim. It is important to note that if you do not want to do this report online or if you need help, then you can call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.  If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, then call the SSA’s toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Representatives for both phone lines are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Please kindly remember that the SSA will help you in person or by phone. The SSA also provides free interpreter services to help you conduct your Social Security business.

The Child Disability Starter Kit contains the following helpful information that should be reviewed carefully and completed where applicable:

1.) A Fact Sheet that explains What you Should Know Before You Apply for Social Security Income (SSI) Disability Benefits for a Child. You will find in this Fact Sheet the Answers to many of your Questions such as: 1.) How does SSA Define Disability for a Child; 2.) How Do you Apply for Disability Benefits for a Child; 3.) How Long Does it Take to Get a Decision; 4.) How Will You Know What that Decision Is; and 5.) What Other Programs May be Available for the Child as well.

  1. Very similar to how the SSA defines Disability for an Adult, the SSA has a very strict definition of disability for children and Determines Whether or Not a Child is Disabled by Evaluating the Following, and the child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and therefore eligible for SSI:

    1. The Child must not be working, and if working, must be making less than a certain amount and this amount does vary from year to year;
    2. The Child must have a Physical or Mental Condition(s) that is Serious Enough to Limit her or his Activities; AND
    3. The Child must have a Physical or Mental Condition that has Lasted, or is Expected to Last, at least one (1) year, or Result in Death of the Child.

2.) A Checklist to prepare for the Childhood Disability Interview . To be fully prepared for the interview, you should have as much of the following information as possible before your interview in original or a certified copy form. This information is in addition to the items requested in the appointment letter that you will receive from the SSA notifying you of your appointment date and time.

It is very important that you Keep your Appointment, even if you do not have all of this information, as the SSA will help you get any missing or incomplete information.

What Kind of Information will I need for the Interview? The following is a sample of the types of information that you must have ready to give to the SSA at your interview. More detailed information can be found in the Checklist that you should have completed prior to your interview. You will be asked questions including, but not limited to the following, and you must be ready to give the SSA at least the following information at your interview:

  1. Your Observations of the Child’s Daily Activities.
  2. Medical Records you already have, including the Dates the Child was Seen or was Treated and the Child’s Patient ID number(s), if known.
  3. Medication(s) the Child is Currently Taking, and this information can be found on the Medicine Containers, and the Child’s Medical Assistance Number, if any.
  4. Names, Addresses and Phone Numbers of any Schools the Child attended in the past twelve (12) months, including the Names of Teachers, Psychologists, Counselors, Speech, Occupational, and other Therapists who have Seen or Treated the Child.
  5. The Child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for Early Intervention Services or the Child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Special Education Services, if the child has one; and any other School Records that you may have.
  6. An Original or Certified Copy of the Child’s Birth Certificate. If the Child was Born in Another Country, the SSA will also need Proof of U.S. Citizenship or Legal Residency.
  7. Names and Social Security Numbers for All the Children and Adults who Live in the Household.
  8. Proof of Current Income for the Child and Family Members Living in the Household (for example, pay stubs, self-employment tax returns, unemployment or other program benefits, child support, etc.).
  9. Proof of Resources for the Child and Parents Living in the Household (for example, bank account statements, life insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks or bonds, etc.).

The Checklist will help you collect the information you need for your interview, and help you stay organized so it is important that you use this valuable tool.

3.) The Worksheet that will ask you questions about the Child’s Medical and School history to help you prepare for the interview, and it will speed up the interview even if you are asked for additional information. The following is just a sampling of what questions will be asked during the interview and what documentation you will need to provide. Please see the actual Worksheet for more information and completely fill out this form prior to your interview. For example, you will be asked questions such as, but not limited to, the following:

  1. The Child’s Height and Weight.
  2. Name, Address, Phone Number, and Relationship of Another Adult who helps care 
for the child and can help the SSA get information about the child if necessary.
  3. The Child’s Illnesses, Injuries, or Conditions, and when they began, and how they affect the child’s activities.
  4. School Testing the child has had, such as Tests for Behavior or Learning problems.
  5. The Name, Address, Zip Code, Phone Number, Dates Attended, and Kind(s) of Special Ed. Services (if any).
  6. Other Agencies or Programs that Tested or Examined the child, or that Provided Services (such as Headstart, Early Intervention Services or Special Education, Public or Community Health, Welfare or Social Service Agency, Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center), and the Name, Address, Zip Code, Phone Number, Kind of Test or Service, and the Date(s).
  7. All medical tests the child had or will have for his or her illnesses, injuries or conditions. (For example, hearing test, vision test, IQ testing, blood tests, breathing tests, x-rays.), the Name of the Test(s), the Date(s) of the Test(s), Where the Test(s) were Performed, and Who Sent the Child for the Test.

In addition to Reviewing, Becoming Very Familiar with, and Even Completing the Child Disability Starter Kit , if you have access to the Internet, you can fill out a Child Disability Report.

For more information visit the SSA’s website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/ or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call TTY 1-800-325-0778). Furthermore, to learn more information about How to Apply for Child’s Benefits for A Child Under the Age of 18, see the following website http://www.ssa.gov/online/ssa-4.html.

What does the SSA do with all of my information? The SSA sends all of the information that you have provided to them and gives it to the Disability Determination Services (DDS) in your state. Doctors and other trained staff in that state agency will review the information, and will request your child’s medical and school records, and any other information needed to decide if your child is disabled just as it does for Adults, and they review the information that you give them. They will may ask for more information from school, medical, and other sources and/or people who know about the child. If the State Agency needs more information, then they will arrange for additional testing and examination of the child and will pay for it accordingly.

When is a Determination made and How will I know what the Outcome Is? Once the determination has been made, the SSA will send you a letter, and it can take up to three (3) to five (5) months for the SSA to decide a child’s SSI disability claim. Therefore, it is imperative that you let the State Agency and the SSA know if your address or telephone number changes so that they can get in touch with you.

Are there Instances in which a more Immediate Determination is Made and Immediate SSI Payments may be Made to a Child? Yes, for some medical conditions, SSI payments may be made right away and for up to six (6) months while the state agency decides if the child is disabled. For example, the following are some, but not all, of the conditions that may qualify:

  • HIV Infection;
  • Total Blindness;
  • Total Deafness;
  • Cerebral Palsy;
  • Down Syndrome;
  • Muscular Dystrophy;
  • Severe Intellectual Disorder (child age 7 or older); and
  • Birth Weight Below 2 Pounds, 10 Ounces.

If your child has one of the qualifying conditions, he or she will get SSI payments right away. However, the state agency may finally decide that your child’s disability is not severe enough for SSI. If that happens, you will not have to pay back the SSI payments that your child received during this time.

How can I find out more about Other Programs or Benefits that may be available for the child? It is important to note that the SSI is not a medical assistance program. Therefore, it is up to you to contact your state Medicaid agency, local health department, social services office or hospital can help you find your nearest health care agencies. The Social Security office, however, can also help you find health care agencies. Medicaid is a health care program for people with low incomes and limited resources. In most states, children who get SSI benefits can also get Medicaid. Even if the child cannot get SSI, he or she may be able to get Medicaid and your state Medicaid agency, Social Security office or your state or county social services office can give you more information.

Children may be able to get health insurance from SCHIP even if they do not get SSI. SCHIP provides health insurance to children from working families with incomes too high to get Medicaid, but who cannot afford private health insurance. SCHIP provides insurance for prescription drugs and for vision, hearing and mental health services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Your state Medicaid agency can provide more information about SCHIP.

You can also go to www.insurekidsnow.gov/ or call toll free 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669) for more information on your state’s program.

What if the Child is old Enough, and Wants to, Work? Many young people who get SSI disability benefits want to work. In these particular cases, the following information may be helpful:

  1. The SSA does not count most of a child’s earnings when they figure the SSI payment, and they count even less of a child’s earnings if the child is a student.
  2. The SSA will subtract the cost of certain items and services that a child needs to work from his or her earnings in figuring the SSI payment.
  3. If a child is age 15 or older, he or she can establish a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS). With a PASS, a child can set aside income for a work goal, and this income will not count when SSA figures the SSI payment.
  4. A child’s Medicaid coverage can continue even if his or her earnings are high enough to stop SSI payments, as long as the earnings are under a certain amount. 


Social Security has two programs that can assist young people who get SSI disability benefits and want to go to work:

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program, and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS) program.


Your local Social Security office can provide more information about these programs. You can also find more information the SSA’s Work website, www.socialsecurity.gov/work/.

What if I am Applying for Disability Benefits for an Adult Child that was Disabled Before Age 22? Up to this point, we have mostly discussed how to apply for SSI for a child under the age of 18, if, however, you are applying for disability benefits for an adult child disabled before age 22, then please complete these two (2) forms that describe your child’s medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to the SSA:

Does the SSI Perform Disability reviews? Yes, once the child starts receiving SSI, the law requires that the SSA review the child’s medical condition from time to time to verify that he or she is still disabled.

What Happens When the Child Turns Age18? For disability purposes in the SSI program, a child becomes an adult at age 18, and there are different medical and non-medical rules when deciding if an adult can get SSI disability payments. For example, the resources of the family are no longer counted or considered and, instead, only the Adult’s income and resources ares considered. Furthermore, the SSA uses the disability rules for adults when deciding whether an adult 
is disabled. It is important to note that if your child was not eligible for SSI before his or her 18th birthday due to family resources and the like, then he or she may become eligible for SSI at age 18. For more information, see Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (Publication No. 05-11000).

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